Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Political Knowledge Gender Mexico Socialization Political Behavior Adolescents

Major Advisor

Matthew M. Singer

Associate Advisor

Shareen Hertel

Associate Advisor

Peter R. Kingstone

Field of Study

Political science


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation explores why research finds that women know less about politics when compared to men (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Verba, Schlozman and Brady 1997). This gender gap puts women at a disadvantage in terms of their in political participation and representation. These dynamics are important in a democracy like Mexico where channels of representation for women are still evolving. By applying a gendered theoretical framework to the study of the acquisition of political information, this dissertation explores how three factors (incubator, structural, and agency mechanisms) transform our understanding of why people seek political knowledge and how their opportunities to access political information are enhanced or curtailed by a variety of factors. Through fieldwork (surveys of high school students in two Mexican states) and an analysis of more than twenty years of public opinion data, the results show that contrary to surveys of Mexican adults, which consistently find a gender gap in political knowledge, there is no such gap among adolescents. Therefore, the evidence supports an “incubator mechanism,” which exists when individuals are exposed to political information through similar means inside the boundaries of an institution. The existence of the gender gap in political knowledge among adults, but not among adolescents, suggests that when people leave the "incubator" the structural and agency mechanisms are the primary cause for the development of the gender gap in political knowledge. This occurs because gender differences in socialization and opportunities provide advantages for men to continue learning about politics after their formal education ends, while women's traditional roles in the home and family leave them at a disadvantage in this regard.